In the last person standing town, Scott Teems makes his home in Los Angeles, with a passion for telling stories through film. As a Hollywood and television writer, producer and director, Scott Teems shares with us today on Work Life Play, the importance of showing up everyday and why you need someone in your corner who believes in you.
We talk about his life as a Hollywood and television writer and director, why most people quit sooner (and don’t go the distance), the supporting people, namely his wife TJ, and properly calibrated expectations to pursue big dreams.
Scott brings us in close to educating us about how a film comes together from casting, location scouting, screenwriting, editing, and securing funding for a movie.
Watch for Scott Teem’s upcoming Big screen studio works Halloween Kills (sequel to Halloween releasing the Fall of 2021. He wrote Firestarter, Stephen King adaptation, starring Zac Efron which begins shooting in 2021 releasing in 2022.
Plugs for Scott’s Films
Here’s an excerpt from an email I received from Scott a few months ago, letting me know about his movie and other projects he’s worked on: “THE QUARRY, and available to stream today! You can watch the trailer here and read a review here. Then, if you’re so inclined, you can rent the film on most on-demand platforms (Amazon, Apple TV, AT&T, Dish, DIRECTV, Google Play, Microsoft, etc.).
I hope you enjoy it. It’s been a labor of love, and I’m proud of it.
If you’re looking for other ways to kill the quarantine blues, I’m happy to report that my first film, THAT EVENING SUN, is finally available to stream again, after years of being off the market. You can rent the film on Vimeo right now!
My documentary, HOLBROOK/TWAIN, is available on Amazon, Apple/iTunes, VUDU, or Google Play! Holbrook/Twain backstory and Collectors edition DVD set here.
So settle into the couch and make it a Scott Weekend… ;-)”
About Scott Teems
Scott Teems is a Georgia-born filmmaker whose most recent project is the Lionsgate release THE QUARRY, which premiered in April 2020 and marked his second feature as writer-director. Next up for Scott will be the horror sequel HALLOWEEN KILLS, which he co-wrote with Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green, and which is slated for release in October. Other projects in development include adaptations of Stephen King’s FIRESTARTER for Blumhouse and Universal, and Abraham Verghese’s best-selling novel CUTTING FOR STONE for Anonymous Content and BRON.
Scott’s debut feature as writer-director, THAT EVENING SUN, premiered at SXSW, where it won the Audience Award and Special Jury Award, then was nominated for two Film Independent Spirit Awards. His feature documentary HOLBROOK/TWAIN, which was the Opening Night Film at AFI Docs, was released in 2019.
On the television side, Scott was most recently a writer and co-executive producer of the popular Netflix series NARCOS: MEXICO. Previously, he wrote, directed and produced three seasons of the acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning SundanceTV drama RECTIFY.
Aaron: Welcome to another episode of Work Life Play. Today, my guest is Scott Teems, friend, and brother. He lives in the last man standing town of Los Angeles with a passion for storytelling through films. We talk about his world of Hollywood and TV as a writer, producer, and director, and what it's taken to get here. He has some upcoming really cool things that you'll see on the big screen. He has one film that's coming out later this year, Halloween Kills - in the fall of 2021. He was a screenwriter for the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter that will be out in 2022, starring Zac Efron. He has other films that he has done, his private films, which we talk about. And as a course of the episode today, you'll hear cool drop-ins cut from those films that he talks about today. You can see him on IMDB and all of his profile and resume and all that lovely stuff. Definitely check out the show notes here on the episode under Work Life Play, because you'll find all of the links, especially to the films that we talk about of The Quarry, That Evening Sun and Holbrook Twain, which are all private films that he has been the creator behind. Lots of people helped make that happen, but he's the guy who wrote these stories and brought them to life. Friends. I know you'll enjoy today. You can do this. It's good for you. Keep going with Scott Teems.
Aaron: Years ago, we were at your house, and you were barbequing some burgers on the back patio. I was just curious and asking you like, man, how do you become a director? How do you move from film school to actually making movies for a living? And I remember one of the things that you said was "I'm willing to go a long, long, long, long way and the equivalent of eating rice and beans to just make it and just to tough it out. And most people quit sooner." Take me to that. I don't know if you remember that conversation or not, or if it was something that you said repeatedly, but take us to when you were in the theme of rice and beans, willing to tough it out, put up with more than most people. What did that look like back then?
Scott Teems: What it looked like was a strong belief in what I was trying to do. A wife and family who shared that belief, which is, a critical component above all else, really. I think if my goal was to just make cool stuff or blow-up crap on screen or just make money, I wouldn't have blasted the years and years it takes to forge a career in this business. I believed deeply that the stories I wanted to tell had value and purpose in the world, if I could ever tell them and have that opportunity. My wife, TJ, she believed that too and went on this journey with me. And my promise to her was that I would surround myself with people who were brutally honest with me, that I would do my best to be self-aware and understand if my dreams were reasonable.
If I had any kind of talent that might possibly lead to this, I would try to make sure I wasn't blind. I wasn't ignorant to who I was as a young artist. And if I had any chops or if I was developing those chops and my promise was I wasn't going to sink the ship. But I believed that this passion that I had to tell stories was from somewhere and it had some purpose and value and meaning, and I needed to pursue it. She agreed and she supported that. We left Georgia and moved to New York City as young college grads and jumped in with both feet and ended up here in LA eventually. I learned pretty early on, I began to see the transient nature of this place, Los Angeles and, and the world of people who wanted to write and direct.
Scott Teems: I began to believe deeply and seeing evidence that if you did have the means to hang around, if you had the will to endure, then this is a last man, last person standing kind of town. I think if you can hang around, if you have some kind of talent, if you're willing to put the time in, then you will ultimately build your circle big enough to where someone somewhere can read it and can actually do something with it. OR that can lead you toward someone who can do something with it. You know, the best advice I ever got to take a writing class when I moved to New York. Right after I got there, I had these wonderful teachers, Chris and Kathy Riley, who were screenwriters. And they said to us in that class, because we had moved there, sort of naively.
Scott Teems: We had thought, Hey, we're going to go up, give us two or three years by then. We'll sort of know if this is something that can happen. This 20 years ago. There wasn't a big internet community. There wasn't a lot of places to get information about what's life like for the screen writer in New York or LA, like what's the reality of it? I thought rather naively that if you go up there for a couple of years, you'll know if you're going to make it or not in two to three years. We took this class and they said for everyone, they know who has made it, and by making it, they simply meant someone who earns their living primarily as a writer or only as a writer, that's their qualification for making it for everyone they know who's made it, it took them 10 years before they were sustaining based on their income as a writer.
Scott Teems: They said, if you can sit here now, this was 2001. If you consider in 2001 and in 2011, you will sell your first script, or to anyone out there wanting to write today, if you can sit here and say in 2030, you're going to sell your first script, if that excites you, if that does not seem like a long time to you, then maybe, maybe you have what it takes to do this.
And that was incredible because the scales fell from my eyes and I was able to go home and say, okay, TJ, this is actually going to be more like 10 years. Is that something we are willing to do together? It helped us to properly calibrate our expectations. That is the goal of life. That's the key to life in my experience is properly calibrated expectations and relationships, and certainly in work and in your dreams and knowing what to expect and making sure everyone's has the same expectations who's involved. That's the key.
Aaron: I just read and keep rereading actually a Palmer Parker book titled Let Your Life Speak. One of the phrases that he uses, I think he actually borrowed it from someone else, but this idea of being fierce with reality, I like that. Fierce with reality and my feet are grounded in the truth with properly calibrated expectations. So, that was 2011. You're at 19 years. Before we get to what today's like for you, I'd like to go back to something you said earlier, which was, you felt that you had stories in you that were worth telling and sharing with the world. So what are the kinds of stories that are in you that are worth sharing with the world that you can't not tell?
Scott Teems: That's a good question. I don't even know that it was so much about the stories that are inside me, meaning that are unique to myself. In fact, most of the work that I've done has been adapting source material to create films out of short stories or novels or comic books. I've done all of those things. What I knew was that I wanted to find those bits, because I've never been a big idea person. I've never been the guy who has three good story ideas a day. Some of my friends do who I loathe, you know, I love them. They make me angry. If I get one good idea a year, I feel like that's a win. You know? I look for inspiration and source material that can draw part of myself out and pour that into that story and then create this third thing through the medium of film.
Scott Teems: I think, was a passion for storytelling with moving pictures and wanting to tell stories about the things I was passionate about, which broadly speaking are men, violence, the South, religion, faith, and where those things intersect, collide. I've done lots of other things, but those are the passions that sort of define the sort of person I was and the person I'm becoming. A product of the South and wanting to tell stories about where I come from as my relationship with that place evolves and changes over my lifetime, knowing that the medium of film was something that I found incredibly powerful. That I felt like I had a gift for. That I wasn't seeing a lot of stories about the South told authentically or stories about faith told authentically. I wasn't seeing those stories.
Scott Teems: It was more about these big ideas that I wanted to wrestle with. And I knew those ideas were things that everyone wrestles with. You know, we all wrestle with where we're from, we all wrestle with, is there a God? Is there no God? What does it mean? Is there meaning to life? The impulse of man toward violence? All humans wrestle with these ideas, hopefully, or at least you're impacted by these ideas and themes. So it was more thematic for me than any specific sort of set of ideas for stories that I had. I had to kind of find those stories that could then allow me to, to investigate and wrestle with these ideas.
Aaron: The things that you said, another conversation we had years ago was, and I've retold this numerous times, is that you love to tell stories and that in dramas, the best stories are where everyone's the good guy, and everyone's the bad guy. Take us into that idea. Where did you discover that? And how does that inform how you tell stories as well as how you view your own life?
Scott Teems: I think I was blessed or cursed as it may be with a pretty stiff BS detector. I think authenticity is something that I value a lot in my life and my relationships and to look authentically at the world is to realize there are no good guys or bad guys. Everybody's a little gray. And the challenge with a lot of storytelling at the level of Hollywood movies, where you have, you know, there's so many different factors involved, which is primarily it's financial, right? So, these are movies that are small businesses. Someone's creating around this story. You know, investing millions of dollars. They want it pretty clean and simple and in order to attract the largest audience, obviously, but those movies never really appealed to me the largest sort of big budget action figure, hero, superhero, movie kind of thing, but only in so much as it reveals some, some element of human nature.
Scott Teems: But in terms of just guys in white hats and guys in black hats, That's not the way the world works. That's not the way I experienced life. And so, it's not the kind of stories I want to tell. As I look for stories that interest me, I'm drawn to those kinds of tales where the lines aren't so clearly drawn. For example, my first film is called That Evening Sun. It's about this man in a nursing home and decides he doesn't want to be there anymore. So, he walks out one day and catches a cab back to his farm in the middle of Tennessee only to discover that there's someone living there. That his son has leased the farm out from underneath him. The old man gets really mad, moves into a little shack on the property, and says I'm not leaving until I get my farm back.
That Evening Sun Clip: We rented this place from your son and you were gone three months. I was hardly gone three months. We got the papers and everything. We thought you was in the old folks' home over in Perry County. I was, I ain't no more.
Scott Teems: So, it sets up this showdown between the old man and this new guy who sort of this, you know, ne'er do well. Like you might call a white trash guy who the old man hates.
That Evening Sun Clip:
Choat: You've been trying to start a fight with me ever since you set foot on this land yesterday.
Meecham: I ain't trying to fight you, Choat. Just claiming what's rightly mine.
Choat: This is my land now Meecham, can you understand that? And I can do with it what I want to, when I want to. I can paint this house. I can raise any harvest. I can, I can, I can bathe in that big tub and lay in that soft bed. And can't nobody tell me different, not you, nobody. And that just eats you up, don't it? It just claws on your insides. That's what you work for in this life, Meecham, land to have a home, to be a landowner. And I'm the goddamn landowner now.
Meecham: How do you expect to run a farm this size when you can't even keep the lawn mowed? You're in over your head, son.
Scott Teems: And what's great about that set up is that the audience initially identifies and gets on the side of the old man who's had this thing taken from him. He's got this moxie. He like walks out of the nursing home. He's smart, he's sharp, he's strong. He gets to this farm and takes a stand against the guy who has every right to be there. Who has done nothing wrong except pay for this place. And legally in a legal transaction with the son and as the old man fights for this place, you understand exactly why he's doing it, you know, right. It's his home. It's where his memories are. It's where his wife died. But you realize he's also, for all his strength, he's also callous and he's cruel. And he looks down upon the man. And he only sees the world through one point of view, his own. The son is also right in his point of view because the dad can't really live on his own. And that's revealed as the movie goes along,
That Evening Sun Clip:
Meecham: Your mother loved that farm. She loved you.
Paul Meecham: And I loved her too, dad. I always will.
Meecham: You won't throw all that away for a little bit of money. I never taught you to be greedy. You learned that somewhere else.
Paul Meecham: It's not about greed. There's nothing out there for you anymore, dad. Things change. Life goes on and you've got to on with it. There ain't any more to it than that.
Meecham: Life goes on now.
Paul Meecham: For those who let it.
Meecham: I'm an 80-year-old man with a bum hip and a weak heart. How much life you think I got left to go on with? I'm no fool, Paul, the road ahead ain't long and it ain't mine. It's short and straight as a goddamn poisoned arrow. But it's all I got, and I deserve to do with it as I please. And what makes me so angry is that I cut and scraped and did without, so that you could go to an expensive school and learn a trade, which you now seem intent on using, to do me out of what has taken me a lifetime to accumulate. This must be God's finest joke.
Scott Teems: We perhaps didn't go about it the right way. But the son also has the right point of view. So, all three men in this scenario are "right" in their own position. And I love that where everyone's right and everyone's wrong. And so what happens then can be more authentic as those people clash together. We see different sides of their humanity revealed and the good guy is not as good as you think he is and revealed. And the bad guy is not as bad as you think he is. Ultimately, you see that they are a lot more like each other than you were initially believed at the beginning. And that's what I think is the human experience, right? I've got a friend of mine, Gareth Higgins, who says, promise everyone, you meet, like your whole opinion of them could be changed for better or for worse if you knew one more piece of information about them. You know that one thing you don't know about their life, about where they are, about that day, what happened that day to them, or didn't happen that day to them? Or as my wife so eloquently puts it. No one's a bitch for no reason. I mean that's the truth. And that's what I love about stories, revealing parts of our nature. That's what draws me to it.
Aaron: Another thing that you said, and it was specifically to one of your newer films, Holbrook Twain. You said something to the effect of the movie won't come to you. You have to go to it. I think what I heard you saying, and then having watched it was that you have to make a conscious choice to engage this film. It's not like a back to the Marvel comic. It's not a Marvel comic blockbuster that's gonna draw you in with entertainment. You have to approach it with like, I'm looking for the treasure here. So, tell me about that.
Scott Teems: In all three of my movies have an element of that, meaning on its most basic level, they're quieter films. They're restrained. I think what happens is a lot of movies talk at you. I'm trying to talk with you, I guess. I mean, this is all the way I'm saying all of this sounds pretty pretentious when you say it out loud. What I'm trying to do is get you to engage. That's what it's really about, I'm not going to yell at you. I want to have a dialogue. I want you to think about what you're watching and that's easy, when you describe it, I can imagine people rolling their eyes or saying, this sounds very boring. I don't think these movies are boring. They're just patient. And they need you to pay attention. It's this great filmmaker, rubber song, this French filmmaker, he would call a lot of modern movies, the cinema of inattention, you don't have to pay attention because the movies just talk at you.
Scott Teems: It's entertainment and it's a distraction and there's nothing wrong with that. And I certainly enjoy those movies too. I think when you're reaching for bigger ideas, sometimes it requires more patience for the viewer. What I look for are these great premises, like I just described with That Evening Sun. It's like you set up this, this great hook. A guy moves back to his house, somebody's living there, right? Boom. Now you have a great hook. You know you're headed toward a confrontation. There's going to be some showdown happening in this movie. That creates a tension inside that space. That creates opportunity for patience. Same thing with The Quarry, my latest movie, which, you know a man rolls into town, stranger rolls into town claiming to be someone he's not.
Clip from The Quarry:
David: Where are you from, Reverend, originally? Where'd you grow up?
The Man: Ohio.
David: Oh yeah, you ever live in a town like this small town? People think they got charm. You know, everybody knows everybody, one bar, one grocery, one pizza joint.
Scott Teems: That creates tension. When's he going to get found out? What's going to happen when he is found out? So, you know, you're headed somewhere for some kind of confrontation and that allows me the space to take the time to investigate characters. So I'm always looking for that great hook. You know, Holbrook Twain is different, it's a documentary. But you still are revealing this very interesting story of how it all came to be, you know? And our story that I find interesting, at least about this, this is great man's life, two great men, their lives, Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook and how their lives have been forged together through Hal's portrayal of Twain for almost seven decades on stage.
Aaron: It was like 2200 times, like the longest stands show or something.
Scott Teems: Yeah, it's phenomenal. I was very honored and privileged to be asked to tell that story because it's one of the great works of American theater, certainly in American art. What he built there and what he did from 1954 to 2017 when he finally retired. So, you know, it's, it's incredible. That's an opportunity that I had that I'm very blessed by.
Clip from Holbrook Twain: If we want to know what the human race is truly like, observe it at election time. That's when the parade of half-truth goes marching by. It's a monument to the gospel. That truth is stranger than fiction. The candidates rearrange the facts or shoot themselves and keep the lies and the half-truth spinning in the air while the great gullible public cheers and shouts and stomps its approval, the way they always do when a politician has just said something they don't understand. We can discount 90% of what the candidates say at election time and assign it to softening of the brain because the contents of their skull could change places with the contents of a pie. Nobody would be the worst off for it, but the pie. There is not one brain among them superior to the rest. And yet this sarcastic fact does not humble the arrogance or diminish the know at all pronouncements of a single ignoramus among them.
Scott Teems: Narratively in fiction films, the key for me is finding that hook that creates that tension because you know you're going somewhere and that's the space that I like to build character.
Aaron: So, you've done everything from producing, writing, for those of us that don't live in that world, kind of walk us through, What's the difference of being a writer on a team and doing screenplays? What's the difference between actually being a producer? What's the kind of one-on-one and how you operate today? And what's the difference between producing versus actually writing versus writing/producing all of it?
Scott Teems: Yeah. Today is sort of three parts to my career or what I do. My sort of primary work is I'm a screenwriter for studio films. So I write for other directors to make movies. So I've been doing that for a while. Those movies are finally starting to get made and come out. I ended up by circumstance and, and fortune, sort of stumbling into the horror genre. So, I write a lot of horror movies, which I love as a, as an expression of character. And what's cool about genre is that you have this sort of a more overt narrative drive, whether it's a horror movie, whether that's someone's stalking and killing, whether there's ghost, whether there's like a thriller plot, police crime, detective, whatever it is. You have a more overt narrative driving plot that pushes the movie along. But you can still find space inside that for character, which is what I love and try to do. So, for example, I wrote the sequel to Halloween. It's called Halloween Kills. It comes out in the fall of 2021. It was supposed to come out this fall but got pushed because of COVID. I wrote Firestarter, which is a Stephen King adaptation that shoots next year, probably come out the year after that, I got like two or three more studio films that will hopefully be arriving in theaters over the next two years.
Scott Teems: And so that's one avenue and I'm just a writer on those. And I work with the directors, I work with the studios. I write and direct my own films like The Quarry and That Evening Sun, Holbrook Twain. Those are generally smaller indie films. And I consider that sort of my art, you know, I don't make a lot of those. They're hard to get made. It's hard to find somebody to give you three or four million dollars to tell a little story about an old man on his farm or a preacher in Texas. You know, who's not who he says he is, those are smaller films. And so those are the things I treasured because that's my real expression as a director, but those don't come around that often. And I spend a lot of my off time just trying to make those happen, you know, and those take years. The Quarry took 10 years to get made.
Scott Teems: You know, I worked on my documentary for eight years, you know, and so it takes a long time. And then I work in television. So as a producer and a writer and an occasional director. I worked on Narcos and I worked on the show called Rectify for several years. So it's allowed me just to bounce around and it keeps things fresh, you know? And so, it's been most of my time, the last few years, just writing by myself in coffee shops and bars or on my back porch when the weather's right, you know? And so I do that a lot. And then you go direct and that's a much more intense, you know, you spend four or five months in Louisiana or Tennessee or wherever you're shooting. You know, you have that time to make that film. Then you spend several months editing the film, getting it ready for, The Quarry, for example. I worked on that for about 10 months that was working on that from February to December of 2019. We worked on that film. And then in a writer's room for television, it's a whole other experience. You get in a room with anywhere from six to 10 people, other writers, and you spend several months just every day together, just thinking of ideas. You know, you sit in a room that's covered in whiteboards and corkboards, and you just dream up the story for the season of TV and you come away. And then you, once you have the story sort of mapped out what you do as a group together, then you go off individually and write your episodes. And as a producer on that, producer in TV is different than a producer in film. A producer in film is really a person who's really putting the whole thing together.
Scott Teems: They're getting the money from the financiers; they're assembling those deals. They're hiring cast and crew or the crew. Now the director cast the movie, the producers helping hire the crew, putting the whole, the physical making of the movie. The logistics of making the movie, the producer is, is the one most often who's handling all that. A producer is a nebulous term. It means lots of different things. For example, executive producer is usually limited to the financier, the person who put the money into it as the executive producer, whereas the producer is usually the person whose hands-on logistical oversight and making the movie. The director goes and directs the movie. And I'm often the writer and director on my own projects, puts a bit of everything.
Aaron: So, one thing I'm curious about Scott is if you were to name the muscle that enables for you to endure, and it's back to the, the hamburger flipping conversation of just being willing to believe and just keep going the distance. I just find that a really unusual muscle that you have. So how is it that you keep, keep the faith, keep believing, keep going, keep doing, keep what's the resilience in you?
Scott Teems: Yeah, I mean, what I've discovered as I've really done self-analysis. There are things you can do that I did purposely to build those muscles, which is, which is basically forming good habits. Getting up early, forcing myself to get up early every day to show up and sit down at the computer or at the desk and do the work. And some days there's nothing happened. Some days everything happens, but you have to just show up every day. And that's just basic any writing teacher or whoever will tell you that anything you want to pursue, if you want to be in shape, you got to show up and work out. You gotta, you gotta jog every day. You gotta do whatever. And those habits just take time and take discipline. But lots of people can form good habits. And I think to endure the writing of it is just too, it's a combination of belief that, like I said, belief in what I'm doing.
Scott Teems: But honestly? What I've realized over the years is that I'm incredibly fortunate in that I really, really deeply respect my wife and I do not want to disappoint her. And I really like, I have a respect for her, you know? And I don't want to be the loser who can't get his crap together and who sinks the ship, you know? And I just want to show up for her and for my kids. I mean, I love my kids obviously, but she was the one, she was the first one. I love her. And I just want to, the truth is that she, she rises me up. You know, I have to, I have to rise up to her level and just the way, the integrity, and the way she lives, her life, that's inspiring to me.
Scott Teems: And, and I want to show up for her. And, and the benefit then is as I've gained throughout our 20 years of marriage. I've just, you know, a lot of this has been stuff that's been born from that relationship. This discipline, this drive is fire. She helped me believe I could do it. You need somebody in your corner. You need somebody who believes in you. You believe in yourself, but you need somebody else who kind of affirms you. And you need lots of people along the way, but, you know, she's the first.
Aaron: It's been fun to watch you guys do this dance together and watch you share this fervent belief that this is work worth doing. The lesson that I believe we can extract and highlight from the stories that you're sharing with us are the properly calibrated expectations gives everyone an opportunity to deal with reality, you know, in your case, it's the, the story of, of Hollywood and, and film and production. And, and I've witnessed it. The same story played out in business context. So it's a big building that they go to every day in a company and people that they lead. And, you know, it's a different context, but very similar story of, okay, so this is my dream. And I need everyone around me to help me make this happen while everyone else's dreams, you know, whether go on hold or all the oxygen in the room and the resources are absorbed by making sure one person is successful in this story and the rest of the family.
Aaron: That's a very repetitive version narrative that I watch people, but this is what my buddy will call like the narrow road. You know, the path of life, that few find. It does look differently and the idea to of an everyday muscle. If what you were saying is for both you and TJ, what's enabled for you to go the distance is twenty years ago, having some real sobered realities. This is actually what we're signing up for. This is actually what this will look like. And then how do we both actually live in such a way where we can get what we need for both in each other, our family, our careers, like, there's just a lot of trade-offs. I find that not only do people not have the basis of clarity and that fierceness of reality from the very beginning. Secondly, not having that partnership like you have with TJ and Leith and I have together. Not having that every day-ness of the baseline of life-giving habits. I think a lot of people actually just believe there's a shortcut line, like a VIP line that they'll eventually find it. And occasionally people do, but I just noticed that those people don't seem to last either. They have other like unintended consequences, even if they do get the VIP line temporarily or some golden ticket. So, it appears. The ones that I admire most are the ones that it's built on foundations that are actually sustainable and life-giving to all involved.
Scott Teems: Yeah, that's great. The other thing I see is there's a pull to, to wait to really begin living your life outside of this thing. Like, you want to put all your energy and I've seen this happen too. I get here, I'm young, and single, and I'm going to be a writer or director or whatever. I'm an actor, I'm new, whatever. And so, I'm going to put life on pause outside of this pursuit to be, and then when I'm established then I have time for a family or whatever else. And when I'm making my art on some sustainable level, the irony that I find in that is that the art inside of that small little window will never grow and be good enough to be sustaining if you're not living and having life experiences. Those experiences are what inform the art, you know, us, TJ and I having a kid our first child, like when, when we're broke.
Scott Teems: And I'm like, you know, working the, you know, the 4:00 AM shift at CBS News in New York City, you know, like getting up at 2:45 in the morning to go catch the subway. You're living in Queens in the town. Like we were broke and I had to like make some money that we wanted to like start a family. And we wanted to live right now in that, in that time and place. And it was scary. But I also know that I grew as a person so much through that experience. And it made my art better, deeper, richer, and those things then allowed, I believe me to build as an artist more quickly and, and, you know, and so as opposed to like, just waiting to start a family until I had it all figured out. There are many ways to do it, but I just think for me, I see that happen too. And you can, you can miss out the risk is that you can miss out on a lot of life experience by waiting around and then with no guaranteed result live your life. It makes you a better person and better artist.
Scott Teems: The beautiful thing about this story, about getting the expectations recalibrated, was that the first year that I survived solely on my writing was 2011, which was 10 years after that talk. That was the first year that I subsisted solely on my screen writing. And that was even after having made a movie like That Evening Sun came out in 2009. And when you make a movie for a million dollars, that movie won lots of awards, had great success on the festival circuit. Got me representation, all that kind of stuff. But that movie, you know, it's a million dollar movie. So I made, you know, 20 grand on that movie, like, and over a five-year period. So that's the five years to make that movie. I got paid $20,000. It's not going to pay your bills. So you still have to find ways to survive throughout that whole time I was working. And so it wasn't until 2011. When I was able to get my first sort of studio screenwriting gig, and that I sort of broke through to a level where I could live on my work
Aaron: Friends. I hope you enjoyed today's episode with Scott Teems. And as you can hear doing work, we love isn't necessarily simple, short, easy. There was no VIP line to the front. There's a whole bunch of prioritizing. What matters most surround yourself with people who love you support you. Will tell you the truth, showing up every day, doing the work and being fierce with reality, s our friend Parker Palmer says. Bless you all, enjoy, keep going.
*We've done our best for this transcription to accurately reflect the conversation. Errors are possible. Thank you for your patience and grace if you find errors that our team missed.
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